The Heartland Festival at UW-Platteville will be wrapping up its 13th season with Shrek the Musical, which will feature some local citizens in the production’s youth ensemble.
Ellie Hemming of Darlington, Lizzy Haag of Belmont and Isabelle Sander of Cuba City will all be performing in Shrek’s youth ensemble.
According to Dr. David Schuler, associate professor of theatre at UW-Platteville and the show’s director, the production is a “classic fairytale, with its knight in green armor, and at the same time, it is equal parts melodrama and screwball romantic comedy.”
“You have the archetypal hero, damsel in distress and villain. I was initially drawn to the show’s musical score, written by award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori, and the musical’s themes of otherness and acceptance, self-esteem and redemption,” said Schuler in a press release.
The Heartland Festival’s core acting company takes on the leads with John Dobbratz in the title role as Shrek, Allison Scheer as Princess Fiona, Ellis Dawson as Donkey, Brian Charles as Lord Farquaad, Caleb Baze as Pinocchio, and Vasi Fafalios as Sugar Plum Fairy, Gingy and the Dragon. Members of the community playing featured roles include Susan Cramer, Susan Savage Day, Lizzy Haag, Bill Haskins, Marcy Russell, Carolyn Schuler, Brent Schwert, Sheri Schwert, Tyler Tollefson, and UW-Platteville students Sunshine Balch, Arianna Day, Andrew Jonas, Rachael Lester and Emma Wilson. Members of the youth ensemble are Quinn Collins, Ellie Hemming, Kale Johnson, Dylan Prestegard, Shaena Prestegard, Isabelle Sander, Miranda Sexton and Kaelyn Weigel.
The production is choreographed by Connie Saloutos Furlan, with music direction by Lizzie Hansen, scenic design by Jeffrey Strange, costume design by Sarah Woodworth, and lighting design by Ben Golden.
Ellie, 9, the daughter of Dan and Kori Hemming of Darlington, will sing and dance in about nine songs of the production as a flower, a villager and as Dopey, one of the seven dwarves.
Ellie auditioned for Shrek, where she had to perform a singing solo and dance before being notified by email that she had been chosen for the youth ensemble. Then the real work began with rehearsals starting at the end of May.
Currently practices are taking place in Platteville six days a week from about 7-10:30 p.m. It’s a pretty rigorous schedule, especially for the children involved, but Ellie said she would like to be involved in Heartland Festival again.
“They really treat them almost like professionals,” said Ellie’s mother Kori. “And the choreography is pretty intense, they really expect a lot from them.”
Ellie is the only Darlington person involved with Heartland Festival this year, but in the past other Darlington natives have participated.
“We’d really encourage other people to be involved as well,” said Ellie’s parents. “There’s a lot of talented kids and adults in the Darlington community.”
Ellie’s dad, Dan, was also involved in the Heartland Festival in the past and both Dan and Kori have been involved in community theatre in various forms, giving Ellie and her older brother, Jackson, early exposure to theatre and an easy path to becoming involved themselves. Both of the Hemming children participate in Darlington Children’s Theatre.
“Come see the show!” advocates Ellie. “It’ll be cool and there’ll be a dragon,” she added.
Shrek the Musical will open on Sunday, July 6 at 2 p.m. and will close on Sunday, July 20. Originally the production was set to open on Thursday, July 3, but due to the tornado that struck Platteville just weeks before the planned opening date, the first two performances were cancelled.
Anyone holding tickets for the cancelled performances can call the university box office at 877-727-1CFA to exchange tickets for a different date or to request a refund.
Performances of Shrek will be July 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19 and 20. Tickets will be $20 for adults, $16 for UW-Platteville students and $9 for those under 18.
The Heartland Festival will also be presenting Give My Regards to Broadway on July 6, 11, 13, 18 and 19 and the Missoula Children’s Theatre’s production of The Secret Garden on July 11 and 12.